Boreholes and hippos: The procurement professional’s guide to water industry jargon

Ian Hewson, head of water and waste water solutions at Business Stream 28 November 2013 | Ian Hewson 

Water is a surprisingly complex topic. But many organisations haven’t been exposed to the language of water, and they don’t even realise it.

Up until recently, most organisations in the UK weren’t in a position to choose who provided their water and waste water services. In Scotland, non-domestic properties of all sizes have been able to do so since 2008. In England only a select few can at the moment. The Water Bill, currently making its way through Parliament, could change all of that by opening up the market to competition.

That’ll see procurement managers grappling with a whole new set of devices, services and jargon, most of which they won’t have heard of until then. So, to help them through the process, here’s a few of the most commonly encountered terms in water and waste water services accompanied by an explanation of what they mean for a lay audience:

Aerators – These are beautifully simple and small devices. They go on the end of your tap’s spout and use air injections to reduce the flow of water by up to 50 per cent.

Automated Meter Readings – These clever devices, sometimes called water smart meters, allow you to monitor consumption in real time by taking water flow readings every 15 minutes. They are especially helpful if you want to identify areas where you can make savings, or where there might be leaks, if consumption spikes unexpectedly for instance.

Benchmarking – This is particularly useful if you have more than one site. It provides you with the opportunity to identify the least efficient sites in your estate and take measures to remedy their consumption issues.

Boreholes – This is a technical term for a deep well and an excellent alternative source of water. It’s a good supply of water for purposes such as processing, boiler use or landscape maintenance, but isn’t fit for drinking.

Grey water – This is water that has previously been used for other purposes, most commonly washing. It’s actually possible to harvest and reuse this water for other tasks.

Hippos – Not the animals, I’m afraid. But these useful plastic bags are easy to install in toilet cisterns and reduce the water needed for each flush.

These are just some of the terms procurement managers are likely to come across when they’re looking for the best deal available once they are free to choose a supplier. But don’t worry, there are plenty more where they came from.

Ian Hewson is head of water and waste water solutions at Business Stream

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